Exploring Boundaries: Experimental Poetry Forms

Experimental Poetry Forms

The term experimental poetry covers a wide variety of styles, techniques and groups. Essentially, it is about exploring the boundaries of language and challenging conventions to seek out the unexpected and unexplored.

A recitation class is smaller than a lecture course and is usually led by a teaching assistant or graduate student. Recitations are where you can ask questions about the course materials and get clarification on your lecture notes or homework.

Ekphrastic Poems

For this lesson, students will write ekphrastic poems inspired by works of art. This is a common form of poetry that can be written about any type of visual art, from paintings to sculptures to architecture. The poem focuses on the interaction between the speaker and the piece of art, and it typically includes description and interpretation of the work.

One example of this is John Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” which describes the way in which the painted figures on an ancient vessel grab his attention and move him. In a more modern style, this form can be expanded to include other forms of creative art like music and dance.

For instance, this witty poem by Anne Sexton, which was inspired by the painting of The Starry Night by Van Gogh, shows how an ekphrastic poem can be a powerful expression of a poet’s feelings. It also shows how a broader approach to ekphrastic writing allows poems to become more connected to universal themes than just the specifics of a single artwork.

Formal Poems

The term experimental in poetry is all about breaking away from traditional norms and structures in a pursuit of creative innovation. This can take many forms, from experimenting with rhythm and rhyme to exploring a combination of artistic disciplines.

For example, some poets use a formal structure, such as the sonnet or villanelle, to explore an obsession. They might even play with the form by using iambic tetrameter and trimeter instead of the strict meter and rhyme scheme that characterizes these fixed forms.

Then there are those who experiment with the very nature of poetry itself, challenging concepts like individualism and the idea that art is a privilege reserved for special human beings. These experimental writers are the ones who, in the words of Wynne Francis, “expand the boundaries of what poetry is supposed to be.”

Visual Poems

Visual Poetry is poetic verse written in a way that takes into account that it will be read in a visual context. The shapes of the lines and their rhythms are designed to evoke particular emotions or ideas in the reader, or to reinforce the concepts the poet is trying to convey.

This type of poem can take on a variety of forms. For example, a found poem may use phrases from other sources – such as government treaty documents – and manipulate them to produce a new meaning. Or, a visual poem might incorporate elements such as fractals, textile vines or jabberwocky.

Many of these poetic forms attempt to push the boundaries of what constitutes poetry. This is in keeping with the experimental spirit of many artistic and literary movements, from the Angry Young Men to Post-modernism. This trend continues to the present day as digital technologies create new ways to explore themes, subjects and sentiments through poetic form.

Sound Poems

In this form of poetry, poets utilize sound devices to create rhythm and enhance meaning. Examples of sound poems include onomatopoeia (using words that resemble the sounds they represent) and internal rhyme.

Sound poems often have a musical quality to them and are meant to be read aloud. Using vocal intensity and sound effects such as onomatopoeia, a poet can create rhythm and evoke emotions in his or her audience.

Early examples of sound poetry include the Dadaist works of Hugo Ball and Kurt Schwitters. Later, notable innovators in this genre included Jaap Blonk who used a dictation program to turn Dutch into English for his work “Ursonate” and American experimental poets like Tracie Morris and Joan La Barbara. Yoko Ono also has experimented with sound poetry using her voice.

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